This week’s Torah portion starts out immediately diving into the story of Balak, King of Moav and Balaam ben Beor, the Sorcerer. Balaam was known throughout the region as a powerful seer in the spiritual realm who, in his own words, was a “…man whose eyes are opened…who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty…” (Num. 24:5)

Balaam was known as one whose curses and blessings came to be. He was esteemed so much that in Midrash Bamidbar Rabbah, 20, it is written that God, “…set up Moshe for the Jews and Bilaam for the nations.” However in Berakot 7a it says, “This should not be understood to mean that Balaam was a full-fledged prophet. Now, clearly…if he could not understand the rebuke of his ass, he was certainly unable to understand the mind of the Most High.”

We read about who Balaam really was according to Rashi, “…Balaam…gave this counsel (to Balak) to make them (Israel) fall by the sin of unchastity…”
It was under Balaam’s instruction that Balak sent the Moabite/Midianite women to seduce the men of Israel. He schemed to receive the blessings from God while also advising Balak on how to stumble the people of Israel so that God would punish them. He wanted Balak’s earthly blessings as well. He spoke God’s word and was used to bless the people of Israel, but he wanted the best of both worlds. He wanted the blessings of God with the wealth of the world.

Targum Jonathan on Numbers 22:22 tells us about Balaam’s servants, “But he sat upon his donkey, and his two young men, Jannes and Jambres, were with him.”

The Angel of the Lord confronts Balaam

Here we find something interesting, where have we heard these names
before? 2 Timothy 3:8-9, Paul is warning about men coming in the last days, who walk in a certain spirit: “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”
Jannes and Jambres were the Egyptian magicians who stood against Moses and Aaron, who then according to tradition became servants of Balaam, and came with him to curse Israel.

So if men in the last days will walk according to the spirit of Jannes and Jambres, then they are really walking in the spirit of Balaam, as it speaks of in 2 Peter 3, about false prophets, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness…”
According to Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 5:19 we read the characteristics of the disciples of Balaam, “An evil eye, a haughty spirit and a limitless appetite, he is of the disciples of Balaam, the wicked.” Compare this with what is written in the beginning of chapter 3 of 2
Timothy. WARNING: In the last days the spirit of Balaam, Jannes and Jambres will reappear to deceive many.

Balaam’s death is recorded in the book of Joshua chapter 13 where it is written, “The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer…” In the verse before this one, it tells us that Balaam was with the Princes of Midian. Why? Also, why is it even mentioned that Balaam died “with the sword?”

Firstly, Balaam had come back to Midian to receive payment for his advice, which had killed 24,000 Israelites through the sins of Idolatry and Immorality.
Secondly, when Balaam gave his advice to Balak, he used words. The weapon of Israel is their words (Torah, Prayer, Psalms), Balaam used the weapon of Israel to destroy them. The weapon of the nations is the sword, so Israel used the weapon of the nations to kill Balaam.
Word for word, sword for sword. Balaam used the weapon of Israel to destroy them, so Israel used the weapon of the nations to destroy him.

However, I wanted to focus on some of the prophecies we see Balaam give. They are actually quite profound in their meaning and convey a message that still rings true in today’s world.

Even after we see how wicked Balaam really was, we also recognize that God used him to bless and prophesy over the nation of Israel. In fact, I’m more surprised that God spoke through Balaam than I am that He spoke through his donkey! The donkey had always been faithful, saved Balaam from death, seen visions of angels…pretty impressive! But God can speak through a wicked person just as much as He can speak through a brute ’n mute beast!

Here is from Balaam’s 3rd prophecy where it says the spirit of God came upon him. He says “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!” This is a very powerful verse, because it recognizes not just the house of Israel dwelling in peace. But it also recognizes the very “dwelling” of God among His people. (Or HaChaim on Numbers 24:5:2)

Throughout history up until today, every time a Jewish person passes or enters a synagogue, they say these very words of Balaam. A recognition of God dwelling among His people and Israel dwelling in peace, security, and purity. The words of an evil scheming sorcerer are the words that Jewish people say daily upon entering a synagogue to pray.

Here is another of Balaam’s prophecies…these words probably have the most significance out of all. He says, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…” This verse describes the coming Messiah. Revelation 22 says, “I, Yeshua…am…the Bright and Morning Star.” In Psalm 45, which is a Psalm all about King Messiah we read “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom…” (See also Hebrews 1:8) In the Midrash Tanchuma Buber, R. Samuel says, “A STAR SHALL COME OUT OF JACOB. This refers to the messianic King.”

As we can see, God used Balaam to prophesy about one of the greatest events in history! We are all still waiting for the coming of King Messiah!

Today, all around the world, Israel’s enemies stand against her. Through speech, action, violence and boycotts. They actually think they have the chance to destroy God’s nation. But even when it seems they’re winning, we know who holds all things in His hands. We know that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes…” God takes what seems to be a curse and turns it into a blessing. He alone has the power and authority to bless and curse. How do we know this? From the very beginning we see God saying to Abram, Gen. 12. “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you…”

Today, let’s recognize as God’s children, that He alone has the authority to bless and curse. However, as we can see in the case of Balaam, God uses people to do His work.
If God can speak through a donkey and through an evil man such as Balaam, how much more will He speak through us?!
We are His mouthpieces in this world, His trumpet call to the whole earth that He is a God who seeks the blessing of all who turn their hearts to Him.
Want to know the secret of how to speak God’s words into the world around you? Take His word and share it! It’s that simple!

And while we speak blessing to the world around us, walking in the spirit of God and not in the spirit of Balaam, may we who “believe in the coming of the Messiah” see His speedy return to His throne in Jerusalem as the “Star that comes forth out of Jacob and the Scepter from Israel.”

Shabbat Shalom,

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